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Palm Beach County school board chair Frank Barbieri on students wearing masks while at school and how a signed opt-out note will work for those to go maskless.
On the first day back to in-person learning, schools in Palm Beach County looked like most years — but with teachers, staff and most students wearing masks.
The Palm Beach County School District said masks would be required for everyone this school year, but students with a note from a parent could be exempt from the mask mandate. A school district spokeswoman reported no issues as of 9 a.m. “So far it is looking like a typical first day of school,” she said.
The newly rebuilt Addison Mizner School in Boca Raton now serves sixth graders, in addition to the elementary school students it always had. Every sixth grade student this year attended the school for fifth grade and will have the opportunity to stay at the school through seventh and eighth grade over the next two years.
“Are you crying yet?” one mom asked another. “Not yet. I’m trying to keep it together,” the other replied.
About 15 students waited outside the school’s main entrance for the gates to open as parents mingled with one other, with their kids and with their friends’ kids.
Some students arrived to school with masks, some without. Many put them on as they walked into the school, taking them off only briefly for group photos with their friends.
Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer joined teachers, crossing guards and volunteers helping students out of their parents’ cars at the drop-off line.
One student in Amanda McCoy’s first grade class turned in a mask exemption note as she walked in. Another student without a mask was already seated.
Sixth grade world history teacher Elyse Vazquez said she had 109 students in total this year. Each of her classes ranges from 19 to 22 students. Her first class of the day appeared just over half-full at 8 a.m.
Multiple teachers said Monday that they had two or three students bring a note from parents saying their child could go maskless. The overwhelming majority of students at the Addison Mizner School wore masks Monday morning.
School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri, Jr. and a school district spokeswoman said at about 7 a.m. that they didn’t know how many students were exempt them from the mask mandate.
There is no specific form required. Any signed note from a parent is sufficient, according to Barbieri.
“With the pandemic seeming to surge currently here in Palm Beach County, the superintendent believed it was in the best interest of the children and staff to require masks,” Barbieri said. “Of course, the governor wanted to make sure we had an opt-out for parents that would not like their children to wear masks, so we made that option available,” Barbieri said.
The school district said that if a student did not have a mask or a note after today, they would be given one by their school.
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